Beloved children’s author Beverly Cleary dies at 104

Cleary’s publisher HarperCollins announced Friday that the author died Thursday in Northern California, where she had lived since the 1960s. No cause of death was given.

Associated Press

Mar 26, 2021, 10:05 PM

Updated 1,117 days ago

Share:

Beloved children’s author Beverly Cleary dies at 104
Beverly Cleary, the celebrated children’s author whose memories of her Oregon childhood were shared with millions through the likes of Ramona and Beezus Quimby and Henry Huggins, has died. She was 104.
Cleary’s publisher HarperCollins announced Friday that the author died Thursday in Northern California, where she had lived since the 1960s. No cause of death was given.
Trained as a librarian, Cleary didn’t start writing books until her early 30s when she wrote “Henry Huggins,” published in 1950. Children worldwide came to love the adventures of Huggins and neighbors Ellen Tebbits, Otis Spofford, Beatrice “Beezus” Quimby and her younger sister, Ramona. They inhabit a down-home, wholesome setting on Klickitat Street - a real street in Portland, Oregon, the city where Cleary spent much of her youth.
Among the “Henry” titles were “Henry and Ribsy,” “Henry and the Paper Route” and “Henry and Beezus.”
Ramona, perhaps her best-known character, made her debut in “Henry Huggins” with only a brief mention.
“All the children appeared to be only children so I tossed in a little sister and she didn’t go away. She kept appearing in every book,” she said in a March 2016 telephone interview from her California home.
Cleary herself was an only child and said the character wasn’t a mirror.
“I was a well-behaved little girl, not that I wanted to be,” she said. “At the age of Ramona, in those days, children played outside. We played hopscotch and jump rope and I loved them and always had scraped knees.”
In all, there were eight books on Ramona between “Beezus and Ramona” in 1955 and “Ramona’s World” in 1999. Others included “Ramona the Pest” and “Ramona and Her Father.” In 1981, “Ramona and Her Mother” won the National Book Award.
Cleary wasn’t writing recently because she said she felt “it’s important for writers to know when to quit.”
“I even got rid of my typewriter. It was a nice one but I hate to type. When I started writing I found that I was thinking more about my typing than what I was going to say, so I wrote it long hand,” she said in March 2016.
Although she put away her pen, Cleary re-released three of her most cherished books with three famous fans writing forewords for the new editions.
Actress Amy Poehler penned the front section of “Ramona Quimby, Age 8;” author Kate DiCamillo wrote the opening for “The Mouse and the Motorcycle;” and author Judy Blume wrote the foreword for “Henry Huggins.”
Cleary, a self-described “fuddy-duddy,” said there was a simple reason she began writing children’s books.
“As a librarian, children were always asking for books about `kids like us.′ Well, there weren’t any books about kids like them. So when I sat down to write, I found myself writing about the sort of children I had grown up with,” Cleary said in a 1993 Associated Press interview.
“Dear Mr. Henshaw,” the touching story of a lonely boy who corresponds with a children’s book author, won the 1984 John Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. It “came about because two different boys from different parts of the country asked me to write a book about a boy whose parents were divorced,” she told National Public Radio as she neared her 90th birthday.
“Ramona and Her Father” in 1978 and “Ramona Quimby, Age 8” in 1982 were named Newbery Honor Books.
Cleary ventured into fantasy with “The Mouse and the Motorcycle,” and the sequels “Runaway Ralph” and “Ralph S. Mouse.” “Socks,” about a cat’s struggle for acceptance when his owners have a baby, is told from the point of view of the pet himself.
She was named a Living Legend in 2000 by the Library of Congress. In 2003, she was chosen as one of the winners of the National Medal of Arts and met President George W. Bush. She is lauded in literary circles far and wide.
She produced two volumes of autobiography for young readers, “A Girl from Yamhill,” on her childhood, and “My Own Two Feet,” which tells the story of her college and young adult years up to the time of her first book.
“I seem to have grown up with an unusual memory. People are astonished at the things I remember. I think it comes from living in isolation on a farm the first six years of my life where my main activity was observing,” Cleary said.
Cleary was born Beverly Bunn on April 12, 1916, in McMinnville, Oregon, and lived on a farm in Yamhill until her family moved to Portland when she was school-age. She was a slow reader, which she blamed on illness and a mean-spirited first-grade teacher who disciplined her by snapping a steel-tipped pointer across the back of her hands.
“I had chicken pox, smallpox and tonsillitis in the first grade and nobody seemed to think that had anything to do with my reading trouble,” Cleary told the AP. “I just got mad and rebellious.”
By sixth or seventh grade, “I decided that I was going to write children’s stories,” she said.
Cleary graduated from junior college in Ontario, California, and the University of California at Berkeley, where she met her husband, Clarence. They married in 1940; Clarence Cleary died in 2004. They were the parents of twins, a boy and a girl born in 1955 who inspired her book “Mitch and Amy.”
Cleary studied library science at the University of Washington and worked as the children’s librarian at Yakima, Wash., and post librarian at the Oakland Army Hospital during World War II.
Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and inspired Japanese, Danish and Swedish television programs based on the Henry Huggins series. A 10-part PBS series, “Ramona,” starred Canadian actress Sarah Polley. The 2010 film “Ramona and Beezus” featured actresses Joey King and Selena Gomez.
Cleary was asked once what her favorite character was.
“Does your mother have a favorite child?” she responded.
___
Biographical material compiled by former AP staffer Polly Anderson and AP Staffer Kristin J. Bender.


More from News 12
2:16
Alleged Gilgo Beach serial killer appears in court; judge works to set trial date

Alleged Gilgo Beach serial killer appears in court; judge works to set trial date

1:22
Cloudy skies and showers develop this evening on Long Island

Cloudy skies and showers develop this evening on Long Island

1:43
Cupcake Moms deliver baked goods to Ronald McDonald House

Cupcake Moms deliver baked goods to Ronald McDonald House

1:43
Riverhead School District approves budget, still plans to cut positions

Riverhead School District approves budget, still plans to cut positions

0:24
Police: 2nd suspect arrested for fatal Brentwood hit-and-run

Police: 2nd suspect arrested for fatal Brentwood hit-and-run

0:20
Police: EMT identified as motorcyclist killed in Bay Shore crash

Police: EMT identified as motorcyclist killed in Bay Shore crash

2:13
Local farm gives neurodivergent people a place to flourish

Local farm gives neurodivergent people a place to flourish

0:26
Former NYC officer and Marine reservist pleads not guilty to deadly DWI crash in Valley Stream

Former NYC officer and Marine reservist pleads not guilty to deadly DWI crash in Valley Stream

0:19
Police: Suspect wanted for burglarizing Farmingdale restaurant

Police: Suspect wanted for burglarizing Farmingdale restaurant

0:53
‘Not all superheroes wear capes’: Lake Grove elementary student thanks classmate and custodian that saved her from choking

‘Not all superheroes wear capes’: Lake Grove elementary student thanks classmate and custodian that saved her from choking

2:14
No layoffs in Sachem School District; multimillion-dollar budget shortfall remains

No layoffs in Sachem School District; multimillion-dollar budget shortfall remains

2:06
School superintendent: No major cuts to programs or school closures this year in Long Beach

School superintendent: No major cuts to programs or school closures this year in Long Beach

1:34
West Islip BOE approves $139M budget as parents address safety concerns

West Islip BOE approves $139M budget as parents address safety concerns

1:40
West Islip student accused of bringing gun, bullets to high school pleads not guilty

West Islip student accused of bringing gun, bullets to high school pleads not guilty

0:37
Adventureland opens Tuesday for people with autism and their loved ones

Adventureland opens Tuesday for people with autism and their loved ones

0:23
Police: Tractor-trailer filled with potatoes goes up in flames on LIE

Police: Tractor-trailer filled with potatoes goes up in flames on LIE

1:04
Driver in fatal shooting of Detective Jonathan Diller pleads not guilty

Driver in fatal shooting of Detective Jonathan Diller pleads not guilty

1:59
State budget tentative agreement allows school boards to move forward

State budget tentative agreement allows school boards to move forward

1:30
DEC: 3rd layer discovered under chemical drums already uncovered at Bethpage park

DEC: 3rd layer discovered under chemical drums already uncovered at Bethpage park

0:22
Police: 2 officers injured while making arrest at Bellerose 7-Eleven

Police: 2 officers injured while making arrest at Bellerose 7-Eleven